keith haring: 1978-1982

The Brooklyn Museum fifth floor is famous for its rotating exhibits, often featuring artists of color or those who represent New York. The Keith Haring retrospective on view right now is a powerful reminder of the courage needed to represent an alternative lifestyle. As Keith Haring was gay and died of AIDS, he has become a marker of a time in which education and care became available for people who do not identify as straight.

The teachers on this field trip are early childhood teachers working in low income areas with families living in poverty. Many New York daycare centers have onsite social workers and family workers to help families with basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, counseling and parenting workshops. 

In the context of such immediate needs, families do not often get to the point on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to warrant a trip to the museum. Also, families may feel intimidated by the atmosphere or by the cost. Many teachers are here because they are using their Cool Culture cards, which allow early childhood teachers, families, and students to enter many museums of New York for free.

Teachers were captivated by many of Keith’s’ pieces embodying simple symbols or playful human characters, animals and cartoons. They felt the children would be able to relate to the openness of the figures. The slideshow of Keith Haring’s subway drawings from the 70’s were a big hit, as teachers were old enough to remember seeing them. The idea of using chalk also appeals to young children, as it is temporal.

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